The IGNITE Project

Orphan Diseases (ODs) are defined as diseases affecting less than one in 2000 citizens (in Canada). There are approximately 7,000 known ODs around the world.  While individually rare, collectively they occur in 1 in 12 of the population in the United States and Canada. According to the Canadian Organization of Rare Diseases (CORD), almost three million Canadians have an OD. The Canadian Maritime population is disproportionately affected by orphan diseases for reasons related to the regional population structure, with certain diseases, such as Fabry Disease, reaching almost non-orphan levels of prevalence.

The $4.9M, three-year IGNITE project is one of the successful initiatives in the latest Genome Canada Large Scale Genomics Research Competition.  IGNITE builds on the team and expertise developed for the Atlantic Medical Genetics and Genomics Initiative (AMGGI), also funded by Genome Canada and a host of other institutions.

The IGNITE project aligns with the creation of several international policies regarding the development of therapeutics for ODs, and aims to provide options to relieve some of the socio-economic burden of these conditions through: an improved understanding of the genetic causes of the disorders; expanded therapeutic options to address disease progression and supportive care needs; and increased commercial and institutional drug discovery capacity through the repurposing of already-approved therapeutics. 

The project is based at Dalhousie University, in beautiful Halifax, Nova Scotia, strategically linking with other world-class researchers across Canada and around the world.


The IGNITE project is the culmination of enormous efforts by a large collection of people with a vision to reduce the impacts of orphan diseases through strategic research and development.

Team members from a previous Genome Canada-funded project, The Atlantic Medical Genetics and Genomics Initiative (AMGGI), were determined to leverage the resulting expertise and human resources. Together with Genome Atlantic, the Dalhousie Medical School, and researchers across the country, they began to explore the potential for future initiatives that could build on the unique strengths of the region and AMGGI.

Recognizing the talent and cohesion of the team, as well as the remarkable genetic findings from AMGGI, they developed a strategy for the future, including the development of the IGNITE project proposal, which was successful in Genome Canada’s 2010 Large Scale Research Competition, and announced in early 2011.